Moving to Keep Moving: How She is Fighting a Disease
“I really work on not letting my mind travel to the negative,” Margee Rulketter says.
Movement and athleticism are central to Margee Rulketter’s identity. “I was always athletic,” says Margee, who played four sports in high school and club-level field hockey in college. So when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 15 years ago, a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination, Margee was scared. “I was so frightened I couldn’t even say the word. So much of my self-worth was around my ability to move,” Margee says.
Her doctors recommended medicines as her plan of attack, but even with medicine she was noticing a decline. “It really took the life out of me,” Margee says. She switched doctors and was told that Parkinson’s patients who exercise fare the best. That was all Margee needed to hear. She began moving again and has not stopped.
While medications are still an important component of her care, exercise has become an equally important piece of managing her disease. “Exercise is so key,” she says. “(The experts) say it is almost as good as medicine.” Margee has recognized the brain/body connection and knows the benefits of exercise go beyond the physical results. “Fear plays a big part in this disease, exercise affects your mind in a positive way as well,” she says.
Margee does one hour of structured exercise every weekday, and on weekends she adds in her own exercises. She also tries to walk every day. Her weekday exercise classes include boxing, biking, and yoga. Each exercise is helping, in different ways, to maintain her mobility. Biking keeps her legs moving and provides a cardio workout. Boxing and yoga help her to address issues of balance and stiffness.
Margee is a regular participant in the Rock Steady Boxing classes offered through the Parkinson Support Center of Kentuckiana. The classes not only provide the exercise she needs, but a social network of people dealing with the same issues and fears. “The support I get from these people is incredible,” Margee says. She recommends to anyone who is newly diagnosed or already battling Parkinson’s but ready to embrace exercise as a means of fighting the disease to get involved in the Rock Steady program.
In addition to her exercise plan, Margee does weekly Jin Shin Jyutsu, an ancient healing art that harmonizes the body through gentle touch. “It is similar to acupuncture, but you can do some of it at home. It gets your energy moving,” Margee says. She was reluctant to try it at first. “It sounded really weird to me, it sounded like it shouldn’t be right,” Margee says, but, after 10 years of practicing Jin Shin Jyutsu, she is convinced of its benefits.
Margee is also sharply attuned to her mental wellness. “Your mind makes a difference. Your body responds to what your mind tells it,” she says. Margee credits her faith and positive thinking with her ability to continue to thrive. “I really work on my thinking. A happy heart is good medicine.”
Margee writes down positive thoughts and motivating words in a journal that lives in the front seat of her car. “I collect things from sermons, from whatever comes in my path that moves me,” she says. She reads through the pages when she needs inspiration and takes the journal with her to doctor appointments. “I really work on not letting my mind travel to the negative,” Margee says. “Fill yourself with so many positive thoughts so there is no room for the negative ones.”